East Devon District Council leader quits Tory Party

Cllr Ian Thomas

Cllr Ian Thomas - Credit: Archant

Ian Thomas will fight the next election as an independent

The leader of East Devon District Council has quit the Conservative Party.

Cllr Ian Thomas, who represents the Trinity ward – which includes Uplyme and Axmouth - became leader of the council last May.

But just days before the whole of the council is up for election, Cllr Thomas has confirmed he is no longer a member of the Conservative Party.

He has resigned as leader of the East Devon District Council Conservative Group, but remains as the leader of the council.

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If not re-elected on May 2, Cllr Thomas has said he will step down on May 3.

In his resignation statement Cllr Thomas blamed the performance of the Party nationally for his departure and emphasised it had nothing to do with local issues.

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He also added that if re-elected, he will sit as an Independent and work as hard as he can to ensure the council delivers the services Axmouth, Combpyne-Rousdon and Uplyme residents want and value, in a caring, open and transparent environment.

Cllr Thomas said: “With a heavy heart, I confirm my resignation from the Conservative Party on April 17, 2019.

“My decision was in no way related to the excellent case being presented by East Devon District Council Conservatives in the pre-election period. Theirs is an outstanding presentation based on the performance delivered by a capable and experienced Conservative led team.

“It rather reflects deep disappointment in the performance of the Party elsewhere.

“I have resigned the leadership of the East Devon District Council Conservative Group but, remain Leader of the Council until the Annual Meeting on May 22, if re-elected - otherwise I will step down on May 3.

“I am arranging that all 2,192 electors in my home Trinity Ward receive a personal letter, hand delivered by my team and me. This confirms that should I be honoured by re-election, I will sit as an Independent councillor not aligned to any political party or group.”

Cllr Thomas was first elected to the council in 2009 and has represented the Trinity ward ever since. He became leader of the council last May after Cllr Paul Diviani stepped down following seven years in the role.

Also standing in the Trinity ward in the elections is Labour candidate Sarah Birnie. Although Cllr Thomas has resigned from the Conservative Party and will sit as an Independent if elected, he will be listed as a Conservative on ballot papers as they have already been printed and sent out to those who have requested a postal vote.

At present, the Conservatives have control of the council, with 32 seats, following Cllr Thomas’s resignation from the group. The Independent Group are the official opposition, with 14 councillors, while the Liberal Democrats hold seven seats with five further Independents, including Cllr Thomas, making up the 58 councillors.

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